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Debate over end to Alabama gun permits grows ahead of legislative session

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 11:00 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A proposed bill in the upcoming Alabama legislative session is drawing criticism from members of law enforcement.

If passed, House Bill 6 would allow most people in the state over the age of 18 to carry a concealed pistol or firearm on their person or in a vehicle without the need for a permit.

Some members of law enforcement say the bill is a threat to public safety, and would only put more guns on the street, during a time when gun violence in Alabama is already on the rise.

Meanwhile, those in support of the bill say new technology and laws passed earlier this year have made Alabama’s current permit requirements obsolete.

“They’re giving these people so much right and so much power. They are turning our streets into the wild wild west,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham. “I am very concerned about this bill.”

Cunningham says eliminating permits takes away a key tool for law enforcement officers. Permits are akin to background checks.

“In Montgomery County alone we had 419 people that we disqualified from being able to get a permit because of their background check.” Cunningham said.

Cunningham added that across 43 of Alabama’s 67 county’s surveyed this year, 5,300 of them were denied a permit because of a criminal history or had a mental illness.

“Those are people who under this bill you would see carrying firearms on our streets. That’s alarming,” Cunningham said.

District 7 Rep. Proncey Robertson, a co-sponsor of the bill and former Alabama police officer, said in response to Sheriff Cunningham’s remark, “So you denied those 5,300 people, does that mean they are not carrying guns today anyway?”

Robertson said if a criminal wants to get their hands on a weapon they can, permit or not.

“None of those people, I would argue, that are shooting people out on the street are going and obtaining a pistol permit from their local sheriff,” Robertson said.

“Why are they arguing against this,” Robertson said about members of law enforcement against the bill. “Because we have just given them a better tool than the permits have ever been.”

Robertson was referring to a new database created under the Alabama Uniformed Concealed Carry Permit Act, adopted by lawmakers in in April, that will single out people prohibited from possessing a firearm because of state or federal criminal conviction or because of a mental health illness.

That database, Robertson believes, will give law enforcement the tools they need to take criminals off the street.

“We don’t necessarily need every good guy to come up there and prove they are a good guy every year. What we need to know is who the bad guys are and we’ve been able to accomplish that with legislation last year. That’s why you’re seeing legislators support this effort this year,” Robertson.

Cunningham said the database does not account for the young offenders they are catching with guns.

“The people we are catching now are younger and younger,” Cunningham said. “They ain’t got a database for youthful offenders. So what they are saying sounds good, sound goods when you are trying to convince people that we need to put more guns on the street in the hands of our young people and that’s what they’re trying to do.”

Robertson said the the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) should have that database up and running by October 2022.

Cunningham says if the current system isn’t broken, why try to fix it.

If passed, the bill would also change Alabama’s gun laws to strip the restrictions on where someone can’t and can carry a concealed pistol. You can read the bill in it’s entirety here.

The legislative session begins Jan. 11.

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